The former arches over Pelham Town Square. VOICE PHOTO ILLUSTRATION / TOWN OF PELHAM PHOTO

Grant request denial means a more cost-effective solution needed, says Bill Gibson

A government grant request by the Fonthill Rotary Club, for funds to rebuild the briefly iconic Pelham Town Square arches, has been declined. Retired industrial designer Bill Gibson saw that rejection as an opportunity to brainstorm a more cost-effective option.

Describing himself as a “consistent optimist,” Gibson forwarded his new design — “in memory of my late friend, Bill Sheldon” — to Pelham Mayor Marvin Junkin, Director of Public Works Jason Marr, and CAO David Cribbs.

Gibson’s arches would be temporary and portable, and installed for festivals such as the annual Summerfest and Christmas Market, plus holiday celebrations and special events. They would have canvas awnings or “sails” to provide shade from the sun.

Marr had told Gibson that he would require any permanent structure to meet Ontario building code standards, which would mean a height in excess of 19 feet in the centre, to allow passage of fire department emergency vehicles and commercial transport trucks. With a short-term, removable structure, the height restriction would not be as much of an issue.

“This is just a concept to get people talking,” said Gibson, and added that the portable arches could conceivably be used for other events in Fenwick, or the Meridian Community Centre, as long as the appropriate foundation was installed to support the arches’ framework.

“Ballast blocks would be needed for the foundation, with a steel column in the centre,” said Gibson, “and the Sunbrella arches frame would then socket down around the post.”

A network of support wires would prevent the arches from swinging in the wind, he said.

Design detail from Bill Gibson’s submission to the Town of Pelham. COURTESY BILL GIBSON

The next step is feedback from Pelham staff, councillors, and the general public.

Before I start the final drawing, I want to make sure everybody’s happy with it

“Before I start the final drawing, I want to make sure everybody’s happy with it,” said Gibson. He is anticipating a Zoom meeting with local officials in the near future to discuss his concept.

Gibson said that the arches fund currently stands at around $100,000.

The disassembled arches could be stored in a relatively small space, said Gibson, and could be built to fit in a typical storage container or “sea can.” He said that tenders would be sent out, and that the fabrication could likely be performed by a local contractor.

He said his design is not overly complex.

“I could probably build the thing in my garage, but if I attempted that, I think my wife would divorce me,” he said, laughing.

An artist’s rendering is critical to the acceptance of his design, insisted Gibson.

“People respond best to visual stimuli. It will make it easier to conceptualize, and achieve consensus.”

With the Canada Games coming to Niagara next summer, Gibson sees the arches as dressing-up the starting point for the cycling road races to take place in Pelham.